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THEMES OF ISOLATION IN SASKATCHEWAN RADIO DRAMA - page 47 / 185

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Timescape: History Plays and Isolation

41

authorities when he held an outlawed Sun Dance.43 In 1899, the Indian Department

officially deposed him as chief for allowing a Sun Dance and giving ceremony. His band

continued to regard him as chief until his death.

Since this play’s production, the issue of the voice of the play, playwright, and

production house has become a more considered than it was in 1980. This play tells a

First Nations’ story. While Piapot was played by renowned Gordon Tootoosis, Piapot’s

words were chosen by Rex Deverell, a white playwright. The story is broadcast through

the filter of the “establishment”, CBC Radio. Such issues as the voice of Saskatchewan

radio drama, and who has the right to speak with what voice would come to a head at

CBC and elsewhere in the mid-1980s. The whole debate deserves more study.44

The play is set in a jail house. Piapot has been jailed for holding a Sun Dance, but

the paper on his cell labels him “Drunken Indian.” Piapot is Frye’s hero-in-isolation; he

is removed from his community and feeling betrayed by the government. His grandson,

Harry, comes to visit and hears Piapot tell the story of his life. Harry finds the isolation

he feels is not unlike that which his grandfather has faced and is facing. Piapot draws the

parallel himself while remembering his own upbringing as a Cree among the Sioux: “It

was hard to stay Cree in the camp of the Sioux. Maybe as hard as it is to stay Indian in

Regina, eh?” Harry is struggling to fit in at the “Presbyterian Industrial School” where he

hopes to “learn a trade.” Like Harry, Piapot spent most of his life caught between

different cultures, whether as a Cree in the Sioux camp he grew up in, or as a chief trying

43 Sun Dances were outlawed because the authorities were threatened by the dances and the giving- ceremonies associated with them. For a typical establishment view from the time, see: “Sun Dances Stopped Indians Summarily Dealt With For Attempting Heathen Practices.” Saskatoon Phoenix. June 5, 1903: 7. Saskatchewan News Index. 18 Aug 2005. <http://library.usask.ca/sni/stories/con5.html>. - more in Conclusion and Appendix C: Voices Debate. 44

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